Louisville attorney Teddy Gordon is again taking aim at Jefferson County Public Schools’ student assignment plan through a new federal lawsuit, he announced Tuesday morning.
In part, Gordon asserted JCPS violated the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in which he successfully forced the district to rework its assignment plan.
Alongside attorney T.J. Smith, Gordon also said JCPS violated two Crosby Middle School students’ 14th Amendment and civil rights in a series of events including forced busing, bullying and injuries stemming from a hit-and-run.
Kianna Miller, the students’ mother, is suing the district, the school board and four JCPS officials.
JCPS does not comment on pending litigation.
The suit asks for up to $20 million in damages. The legal team also is asking for an order allowing students in households without reliable transportation to opt out of the district’s student assignment plan to attend a neighborhood school.
The requested order also would bar JCPS from suspending no-transportation students from the bus, which could impact how bus behavior issues are handled.
When asked how the suit could affect the assignment plan, Gordon said, “It should end it once and for all.”
JCPS’ student assignment plan was the only reason the African-American brothers needed to ride a school bus instead of walking 10 minutes to a neighborhood school, Gordon said. And their assignment ultimately led to severe injuries resulting from a hit-and-run, Gordon asserted.
The younger brother was repeatedly bullied on the school bus, Gordon said. He asserted JCPS officials denied the student’s request to switch assigned seats, and that the student eventually moved seats on his own. Soon after, the student was suspended from the bus in late October.
The student was not suspended from school, however, requiring him to take public transportation to get to school. A car hit the two brothers shortly after the two brothers left their house at 5:45 a.m. to walk multiple blocks to the TARC station, leaving the younger brother with a brain injury and the older with a broken femur.
“No student assignment plan, no forced (busing), no due process, no injuries?” Gordon wrote in the suit. “Solely because S.B. (the younger brother) changed his assigned seat so he wouldn’t be bullied?”
In 2006, Gordon represented a parent whose white child wasn’t allowed to attend a nearby school because it would imbalance the school’s racial diversity.
In its 2007 Meredith v. JCPS ruling, the Supreme Court sided 5-4 with Gordon, deciding that race can’t be the sole factor in assigning students to a school. JCPS’ student assignment plan was then retooled to focus not only on race but socioeconomic factors in 2008.
Gordon said that JCPS violated the Meredith ruling because the students were assigned to Crosby “solely because of their race.” Tuesday morning, he said JCPS would have to prove that students were assigned due to low income and not their race in court.
To negate segregation in Louisville, JCPS uses an assignment plan to achieve racial diversity throughout the county. Critics point to it as a system of forced busing that forces minority students to spend hours on a bus each day, even when they could attend schools in their neighborhood.
JCPS is reviewing the plan, aiming to implement a revised plan by the 2020-21 school year. The district recently wrapped up an online survey and a series of forums devised to gain community feedback on the policy.
Since the Meredith ruling, Gordon has frequently sued JCPS in circuit and district court over student abuse and bullying allegations.
Both students continue to attend Crosby Middle School after being out for two months because of their injuries. Louisville Metro Police are still searching for the person who hit them.
Video by Peter Champelli.